Barcelona beat Espanyol on penalties to win Supercopa

Barcelona beat Espanyol in penalties after a goalless 90 minutes

Barcelona squared off against Espanyol in the Supercopa de Catalunya on Wednesday. The fixture was a good opportunity for Barcelona to rotate considering the fact that it was a semi-friendly.


The team started excellently with Paco Alcácer missing an easy 1-on-1 against Pau López within a minute of the game. However, Espanyol had the best chance of the opening ten minutes with Cillessen being forced to make a double-save.

Barcelona dominated possession but were susceptible to the counter-attack numerous times. If it wasn’t for Cillessen, the scoreline could have looked much different.

Denis Suárez and Dembélé had some good runs at the opposition defense but the final product was missing.


The second half followed the theme of the first, with Barcelona having plenty of time on the ball. However, Barcelona were still conceding plenty of chances down their right wing, behind Palencia.

Cillessen was tested on several occasions by Espanyol as Marc Roca and Piatti had a shot each on target, with Piatti’s attempt hitting the cross-bar. Even A. López, who came on as a substitute, pushed the keeper to make a save.

Despite several chances, the deadlock remained and as the referee blew his whistle, the game went straight to penalties.


Alcácer stepped up first and scored with a powerful strike into the top corner. The follow up from Darder was skied.

Palencia stepped up to take Barcelona’s second with a hard strike past the keeper. Javi López had his strike and put it past the keeper as well.

Mina scored the third and did his little dance. Hermoso took the follow-up with a cheeky finish.

Abel Ruiz was the fourth for Barcelona and did what he had to. Jurado took Espanyol’s strike but Cillessen made the save to give the Blaugrana their first trophy of the season.

Barcelona: Cillessen; Palencia, Mina, Cuenca (Costas), Digne (Miranda); Aleñá (Ruiz), Gomes (Hongla), Suárez (Rivera); Vidal (McGuane), Alcácer, Dembélé (Pérez)

Goals: NA

Espanyol: Pau López; Javi López, Naldo, Hermoso, Dídac (Adrià); Marc Roca, Granero (Ortega), Darder; Melendo (A. López), Jurado, Piatti (Puado)

Goals: NA

Why the win against Atletico will define Barcelona’s season

Valverde’s tactics have been confusing but effective

As Barcelona fans, it can be very hard to watch Ernesto Valverde’s version of our beloved club.

The club has made some expensive dips in the market with the purchases of Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho. The latter is ineligible to play in the Champions League but his arrival in January was always about resting Andres Iniesta for Europe. Dembele, on the other hand, is available and raring to go. Despite his attacking prowess, Valverde has chosen to ease the winger in with care.

Against Girona, Valverde pulled out all the stops and started Coutinho and Dembele together for the first time alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. The result was a mammoth scoreline that brought some joy to Valverde’s tactics. It was a carefully planned display of his attacking nous and organization.

His selections since then have, however, been suspect. Against Las Palmas, Valverde started Paulinho in the middle with Aleix Vidal on the right side of midfield. The Brazilian had a pretty poor performance and was eventually taken off while Vidal did little to justify his playing time. The game was a difficult one and it was only a Lionel Messi free kick that kept Barcelona from ending their undefeated streak.

When it was time for Atletico, one would have assumed that in light of the Champions League fixture against Chelsea, Iniesta should have started on the bench. Valverde, however, thought otherwise. Not only did he start Iniesta, he also put Coutinho on the right which crippled his strengths while magnifying his weaknesses.

Cut to the half-hour mark and a limping Iniesta was taken off. In his stead came Andre Gomes–a man who hasn’t really impressed anybody in his time with the Blaugrana. To put this in perspective, Barcelona was up against their title rivals who were in incredible form.

The change did not make any sense tactically either.

Atletico are a compact team and the only way past their defense was around it. The game was screaming for width and Valverde had the perfect option on the bench.

Many will attribute this win to Lionel Messi and his gorgeous free kick. Few will notice the defensive masterclass that Barcelona put up. Even fewer will admit that Barcelona beat Atletico at their own game.

It was surprising to see Atletico make attacking substitutions with Barcelona focused on their defensive shape.

Valverde’s critics will keep giving him the stick and the purists will question his methods.

The solution to this problem, however, is to kick back and relax.

Either Valverde is good and he’ll win a lot of trophies or he’s riding his luck and will be exposed sooner or later.

There is very little evidence for both arguments which makes judging the coach an incredibly difficult task. However, the game against Atletico should give everyone a benchmark of how the coach will react to adverse conditions in big games.

If anything, this was Barcelona’s first big test with high stakes and Valverde’s approach was for everyone to see.

This win sets the tone for the business-end of the campaign and any titles, won or lost, will have this day to look back on.

What would Arthur’s arrival mean for the rest of the midfield?

ESPN Deportes’ Jordi Blanco has reported that Barcelona and Gremio have agreed to a deal that could be worth around €40 million for Arthur. The sum is inclusive of a €10 million performance-based incentive.

The news comes as little surprise. Barcelona has been making some serious dips into the market in the last couple of windows trying to reinvigorate their aging squad.

Barcelona has shifted to a 4-4-2 under Ernesto Valverde and a deep-lying playmaker in the mold of Arthur would add some technical support to Barcelona’s midfield.

Currently, the squad is overly reliant on Sergio Busquets to control the middle of the park with Ivan Rakitic doing a commendable job when called up to the task. The acquisition of Paulinho was expected to help create a more dynamic double-pivot but few would have expected the Brazilian to be so trigger-happy.

Barcelona v Deportivo La Coruna - La Liga
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Arthur is more of a traditional midfielder and when provided with the right support, his passes can help in creating some great counter-attacks. The Gremio midfielder can even play as a central midfielder in the more traditional 4-3-3 which means his arrival will add to the coach’s tactical options.

But what does it mean for the current roster? Barcelona has done its best to ship away all the deadwood but there are still several names in the squad who are fighting for game time. The midfield, in particular, is crowded with players like Andre Gomes and Denis Suarez still hoping for some minutes.

Real Betis v Barcelona - La Liga
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Arthur’s arrival will change the scenario completely. While Barcelona has pulled the trigger on a couple of players, there are still some names that the club is struggling to part ways with.

The Brazilian’s signing is almost a warning to the squad that their days are numbered.

Should Arthur come, one should expect an overhaul with several names departing for greener pastures.

Did Valverde falter against Chelsea?

The Basque is receiving a lot of backlash from the fans

The moment Ernesto Valverde announced Paulinho in his starting line-up, there was a contradiction in his intent and actions.

Going into the game, Valverde had emphasized the importance of scoring goals and many had taken this as a positive sign. The team had struggled to create chances in recent weeks and this was a sign that better things were to come.

In light of his comments, many had expected summer signing Ousmane Dembele to start on the right side of midfield. This was, however, all hypothetical as Valverde started the same line-up from three days ago against Eibar.

Not only did this mean that everyone was tired, it also meant that Barcelona were not equipped to counter effectively.

Chelsea FC v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: First Leg
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Valverde has done a lot of good in his time with Barcelona but one thing he hasn’t been able to fix is Barcelona’s lack of pace.

Apart from Jordi Alba, none of the players in the starting line-up are fast. Nelson Semedo can potentially solve that problem but even he has been a perennial figure on the bench (and he was suspended for the Chelsea game).

Barcelona have a lot of fast players who are currently riding the bench. All of Semedo, Dembele, and Denis Suarez are fast players who can facilitate counter-attacking football. This ability would have been useful against Chelsea where Barcelona chose to stay deep.

The team suffered from tired, aging legs that failed to react when Chelsea gave up the ball. It seemed as if the entire game was a futile exercise in sterile penetration. Lionel Messi was constantly dropping deep trying to facilitate some control but none of it seemed very effective.

Chelsea FC v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: First Leg
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The game could have changed significantly had Barcelona introduced Dembele or Denis. However, the only change was Aleix Vidal and he was too little, too late.

Valverde’s tactics have started to show weaknesses and as Barcelona gear up for the business-end, more will be expected from the coach.

The result may have favored Barcelona, but it was all down to some good fortune and Lionel Messi.

Valverde needs to realize his shortcomings before the opposition does.

Three things Valverde needs to do against Eibar

Time to play manager!

Barcelona have managed to remain undefeated so far in La Liga, but the going isn’t all good.

While the switch to a 4-4-2 was spectacular for the first half of the season, the goals are slowly drying up.

Barcelona have been dependent on individual brilliance in the past few games and their stalemate with Getafe was uninspiring, at best.

With that said, here are three things Ernie should do to turn the tables.

1. Switch to a 4-3-3

Barcelona v Valencia - Copa Del Rey
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After the constant debate on which formation suited Barcelona best at the start of the season, things have settled down quite a bit. While Ernie’s formula has led to his undefeated streak, it has come at a cost. Barcelona have not been able to create as much as they did in the initial matchdays. So what’s next? Bring back the 4-3-3!

We all love it, and it utilises most of our players in their best positions. The likes of Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele are better in the final third, than when stuck on defensive duties out wide. A 4-3-3 will also allow the big-money duo to cut in and take a chance.

2. Start Nelson Semedo

Sporting CP v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League
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Nelson Semedo has seen his playing time reduced significantly. Even though Sergi Roberto is not a full-back, he is currently doing a better job of operating on the flank than the Portuguese. Despite all this, Roberto cannot stretch play as well as his competition and therein lies the problem. Eibar have seen their fortunes turn and their energy could limit Roberto.

Semedo, on the other hand, could create chances on their short pitch with his ability to hug the touchline. While his chances of starting are limited, it should still be an option.

3. Rest Andres Iniesta

Espanyol v Barcelona - La Liga
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As the business-end of the season arrives, Barcelona are yet to falter. Andres Iniesta has been a massive presence throughout the season and the captain has often slowed the pace to give Barcelona comfort on the ball.

In recent weeks, however, Iniesta has looked tired and it is almost a certainty that he will be taken off at some point in the match.

With crucial games coming up, Ernie needs to protect his captain and Coutinho and Roberto should be in contention for Iniesta’s spot tomorrow. If the club have high ambitions this season, then running one of your best players into the ground will not do any good.

A Fan’s Perspective: Digne has proven his worth to Barca

Things are looking good for the Frenchman

Barcelona had a bit of an injury scare a few days ago when Gerard Pique was out and Samuel Umtiti was suspended. In came Yerry Mina and Lucas Digne who put on an excellent performance for an odd pairing.

While Yerry Mina may have gotten most of the attention in that particular game, Lucas Digne was perhaps more comfortable playing in the duo. Despite a difficult start to the game in the opening minutes, Digne went on to put on an excellent defensive showing that highlighted his strengths and hid his flaws.

Digne is often criticised for his lack of pace on the flanks but he is quick for a centre-back. Numerous times, he kept up with his mark and harassed the attacking players into conceding possession.

Digne may be short in stature but his aerial prowess is one of his better qualities.

Barcelona have been in search of centre-back options but from the game against Getafe, it would seem like they already have the necessary depth. If one were to consider Marlon, who is on loan, as a potential defensive reinforcement, then Barcelona’s defence is loaded in the middle. It would, however, mean that their apparent depth on the flanks is perhaps not as good.

It would be wise on the club’s part to switch their interest towards purchasing a cover for Jordi Alba.

A Fan’s Perspective: How should Barcelona build, moving forward?

The 4-4-2 or the 4-3-3?

It’s crazy how good Barcelona have looked this season despite some major tactical shifts at the start of the campaign.

Few would have imagined that the club would be flying high, as it is today, back when the season first kicked off. The ingenious shift from a traditional 4-3-3 to the more dynamic 4-4-2 deployed now, courtesy of Ernesto Valverde, has changed the way the club plays entirely.

The essence of the team has returned despite the odds and few would question the manager’s credentials.

However, there is one slight problem at Barcelona’s doorstep. Should the club build its squad for a 4-4-2 or a 4-3-3?

Barcelona has several midfielders at the moment which has helped the team acclimatize to the new formation. With several names leaving, or on “potential-sales” lists, it begs the question of what is the goal moving forward?

Barcelona has made some major investments in the past two windows, namely Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho. Despite their obvious abilities, both are better suited to the 4-3-3 as opposed to a compact 4-4-2.

The midfield, however, is a different story. Barcelona has a number of players capable of playing as central midfielders but few have the defensive ability to play in a double pivot. Ivan Rakitic has been excellent in this transition, but he isn’t our future and neither is Sergio Busquets.

One obvious name that comes to mind is Sergi Roberto, but he seems pretty occupied on the flanks at the moment to play through the middle. The more recent mention of Arthur from Brazil is another question mark. If Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi will continue to play up-top, and the expensive Dembele and Coutinho are locked on the flanks, then shouldn’t Barcelona invest in defensively astute midfielder capable of holding the fort?

Barcelona needs to plan fast and act faster to survive this ever-expanding inflation-bubble that has hit the “post-Neymar” footballing world.

Hopefully, the club has these things covered, or we could potentially be looking at a mess of a squad in the next few windows.

A Fan’s Perspective: Barcelona’s right-wing is in flux

An opinion on Aleix Vidal, Ousmane Dembele and the departure of Gerard Deulofeu

Ever since Ernesto Valverde took charge of Barcelona, his fluid 4-4-2 has helped several fringe players find minutes on the pitch.

The right-wing, in particular, is a position yet to be filled by a permanent name. The likes of Denis Suarez, Andre Gomes, Ivan Rakitic, Sergi Roberto, Gerard Deulofeu, Aleix Vidal and Ousmane Dembele have all tried their luck in the role with varying degrees of success. Few have done better than the rest.

While Roberto, Vidal and Dembele are probably the best choices to fill the spot, new arrival Dembele is primed to take over permanently. Despite all his flair, Dembele is yet to find his footing in the team.

Few would argue against the fact that Sergi Roberto is best suited to the heart of midfield and till a spot is vacant, he is likely to hold the right side of the defence.

Gerard Deulofeu was an option during the first half of the season but had disappeared into obscurity with every passing month. His departure will not be noticed in the slightest.

Vidal on the other hand, is a player who is performing beyond expectations in his new role. Yes, he was marketed as the solution to Barcelona’s right-back problem which was a disaster. However, he is an exceptional winger with pace and ingenuity to beat his man.

While Barcelona adjusts to Ousmane and he reciprocates in kind, Vidal can be the stop-gap we so desperately need.

If his recent performances are anything to go by, Aleix VIdal has finally found his niche in the squad and it could secure his future with the Blaugrana.

A Fan’s Perspective: Ernesto Valverde could be Barcelona’s long-term coach

The coach is proving his haters wrong

When Ernesto Valverde came to Barcelona, few knew what he was capable of doing. There was a general idea that his teams could press (due to his tenure with Athletic Club) but little else was known about his tactical style.

Ernie started his time at Barcelona with a two-legged defeat to Real Madrid. It was not what Culés had in mind when they thought of Valverde. His switch to a 4-4-2 was also subject to backlash from the fans.

A few months later, and the fans are comparing Ernie to former coach Pep Guardiola. So what’s changed? Well, for starters, Ernie is incredibly calm in the face of trouble. The Basque has coaxed an incredible second-half performance from his team on numerous occasions this season. His teams may not be perfect on the go, but they adapt and take home the three points.

Even his infamous 4-4-2 has been received with applause for being capable of adapting to quick-transitions. Even players like Aleix Vidal have had a decent run with the team under him.

Ernie has used the B-team fairly regularly. When called upon, his judgement has been immaculate and more often than not, Barcelona makes the right squad selection.

He may not be the charismatic enigma that is Pep, but he brings a quiet air of assurance that few coaches have had in Barcelona’s recent past. With Ernie at the helm, there is a sense of calm even when the team is down.

Ernie has shown the astute tactical nous that fans at the Camp Nou crave. Last night’s double substitution that replaced both full-backs was another display of that ability. Valverde has endeared himself to the club and fans despite not being the first choice. That hasn’t happened by chance.

For what it’s worth, Valverde has shown that he’s a bet for the future.

Should Barcelona want a long-term coach, Ernie would be a good choice.

Three reasons why Barcelona should target Stefan de Vrij from Lazio

The Dutch international is out of contract this summer

Barcelona have made some giant investments in the past few transfer windows. The likes of Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho have joined the club and the spending hasn’t ended there. Nelson Semedo and Yerry Mina have also arrived for reasonable fees and the club’s sporting project is starting to look exciting once again.

Deadwood is also being cleared and further names are expected to join like Atletico Madrid hitman Antoine Griezmann. But with the departure of Javier Mascherano, there is the immediate question of whether Barcelona should sign another centre-back.

With that being said, here are three reasons why Barcelona should sign Stefan de Vrij from Lazio in the coming windows:

1. Contract situation

De Vrij has less than six months on his contract and will most likely come for free, or incredibly cheap. For a player of his calibre, it is shocking that Lazio have not done enough to renew his contract. On the flipside, it is to be noted that there are plenty of teams keeping tabs on the Dutchman. Where he eventually ends up is still up for debate. However, it is rare for such talented players to be available on the market like this. Barcelona should capitalise before others do.

2. Age factor

Despite his experience, De Vrij is only 25 and just slightly older than Barcelona’s defensive future Samuel Umtiti and Yerry Mina. De Vrij is capable of playing in the centre of defence as a sweeper. Not only does this secure Barcelona’s long-term future, it also gives the coach tactical options defensively. His ability to use both feet well also makes him an option for both defensive slots.

3. Urgent need

Barcelona are going to experience a lack of depth in defence very soon. Javier Mascherano will leave shortly while very little faith can be put in Thomas Vermaelen staying fit. If Barcelona chose to let the Belgian leave this summer, the club will be left with just three centre-backs. Signing De Vrij now will give him six months to integrate into the club and also strengthen their position in the transfer window when it comes to the sale of Vermaelen.